Kimberly Eve Musings of a Writer: George Frederic Watts by Edward Steichen


In view of my emulating Edward Steichen’s photograph of Gloria Swanson covered in lace with my Hollywood tattoo series, it is fascinating to see his early work in this 1900 portrait of the painter G F Watts who, as readers familiar with this blog will know, was once married to the actress Ellen Terry.

Background description from National Portrait Gallery, “In 1900, Watts was aged 83 and the doyen of the art world, having outlived most of his contemporaries. He is shown here, in a photogravure from the American publication Camera Work, as a venerable figure whose profile features are illuminated by a single light source, perhaps a window. The pictorial style draws attention to the painterly composition and chiaroscuro derived from old master portraiture. In this respect, Steichen’s image – one of two poses from the same sitting – evokes an elderly version of Watts’s ‘Venetian Senator’ self-portrait of c.1853, although its immediate inspiration seems to be Watts’s profile self-portraits of 1879–80 (see ‘All known portraits’). It has also been argued that Steichen’s admiration for European Symbolist painting is reflected in the composition,  and doubtless such admiration drew Steichen towards Watts, whose late allegorical paintings proved major contributions to the Symbolist impulse. The exact circumstances of this portrait-making remain somewhat unclear, however.

American photographer Edward Steichen travelled to Europe in summer 1900 to study painting in Paris. In September he visited London to…

via Kimberly Eve Musings of a Writer: George Frederic Watts by Edward Steichen.

4 thoughts on “Kimberly Eve Musings of a Writer: George Frederic Watts by Edward Steichen

  1. Some of these old photographs are truly incredible. I guess photographers must have come from other disciplines as there would not have been many photographers…How times change! Great image…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Have you been to the Watts Gallery in Compton, Surrey?
    If you are interested, there is a poem on the basilica and mortuary chapel built by his wife (in Compton) in my Poetry section.

    Liked by 1 person

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